Patient, doctor share insights into mother-baby experience at Shelby Baptist Medical Center

By Emily Sparacino
Photographs contributed

When Catharine and David McBrayer of Vestavia were preparing for the birth of their second child four years ago, they were looking for a different hospital experience than they had with their first child.

“We just wanted to make a change and a fresh start,” Catharine, 33, said.

As they researched options in the area, they spoke with Catharine’s father-in-law, Dr. John McBrayer, a cardiologist with Heart South Cardiovascular Group.

“I asked him for recommendations of some doctors,” Catharine said. “He just said he was crazy about the group down at Shelby, and just made a suggestion if I wanted a fresh start, he thought that would be a great place to be.”

Catharine landed in the care of Dr. Ashley Gooding with Shelby Obstetrics and Gynecology, and when the time came for her to deliver Flynn in January 2013, she and David headed to Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster.

“My husband and I were both very taken aback by the generosity and the consistency,” Catharine said. “All the nurses were well-informed. You were aware of the shift changes and who they were. Everyone was so kind.”

Earlier this year, Catharine and David welcomed their third child, Mary Ross, at Shelby Baptist. Following their labor and delivery experience with Flynn, they knew they were going back to the right place.

“Everything about this experience was wonderful both times,” Catharine said. “I feel like the nurses built a rapport with you so that you felt comfortable and at ease; every single nurse we had both times.”

Catharine said one of the things she appreciated was the hospital was organized and didn’t rush her and David following their babies’ deliveries.

“You weren’t inundated with tons of stuff right away,” she said. “You were given time to be taken to a room to recover before you were slammed with paperwork. With my first experience, I felt like I had tons of paperwork right away.”

Catharine described the atmosphere as “calming” and “comforting” after the delivery, and a lactation nurse visited her room to ask if she needed help during breastfeeding.

“I just felt like it was a real calming experience,” she said. “It was personable. They asked if you were ready, helped you get back together. They really took care of you.”

After one of her deliveries, Catharine had to change rooms at the hospital. The staff handled packing and moving all of her belongings.

“It was a smooth transition from the delivery room to a private room,” she said.

Even when Catharine experienced issues with her epidural before Flynn’s birth, the Shelby Baptist staff did everything in their power to fix it.

“They were so calming throughout the whole time,” she said. “They were determined to get it working and make sure I was comfortable. It just meant a lot to me that they took the time to try different things to make sure I was comfortable.”

Catharine said Gooding added to the calming nature of her deliveries, was encouraging to her and kept her informed of what was happening throughout the process.

“I liked being informed of what was going on,” Catharine said. “There was so much anxiety in the first experience. Neither of these (deliveries) at Shelby were. The team of nurses and Dr. Gooding made it seem like it was a real peaceful experience.”

Gooding has been with Shelby Obstetrics and Gynecology for 12 years and delivers all of her patients at Shelby Baptist.

“I think it’s a privilege to be able to focus my attention on one dedicated women’s facility where I know my patients will receive great care,” Gooding said.

Although she doesn’t keep count, Gooding said she is told she has delivered about 2,000 babies at Shelby Baptist.

“I love taking care of pregnant women. It’s a very meaningful way to spend my career,” she said. “I approach each patient with enthusiasm for the life they’ve created. I feel a responsibility to help each woman become the healthiest she can during pregnancy, and I want to enable each baby to get the best start in the world, with the best opportunity to have a healthy life.”

Shelby Baptist is pursuing a “Baby Friendly Hospital” certification, which, once achieved, will recognize the facility as one that offers the optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother and baby bonding, Brookwood Baptist Health Marketing Director Laura Brooks Bright wrote in an email.

According to, the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, or BFHI, is a global program launched by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund in 1991 to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer that optimal level of mother and baby care, and it recognizes and awards birthing facilities that successfully implement “The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” and “International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.”

“It encourages and supports breastfeeding, which has been shown to improve the health of both moms and newborns,” Gooding said. “We have a great team of nurses and doctors who work together to help patients have a happy and healthy delivery experience.”

In addition, Shelby Baptist has remodeled its labor and delivery unit. Patients will find spacious and comfortable rooms.

“We encourage babies and new moms to stay together throughout the hospital stay,” Gooding said. “We offer a special breakfast for the family on the morning after delivery.”

Catharine and David, who owns an Allstate insurance agency in Alabaster, were impressed with the care they received from Gooding and the nurses at Shelby Baptist during their second and third babies’ births.

“You’re already nervous and naturally a little anxious, but they took that anxiety away,” Catharine said. “I feel like they have a true gift. It really was a wonderful experience.”

Gooding said the personal care patients like Catharine receive at Shelby Baptist is what keeps them coming back as they have more children.

“When making a plan for delivery of a second or third child, my patients will often ask me if they can request the same nurse that assisted with the delivery of their first child,” Gooding said. “I see there is quite a bond that formed during the previous delivery.”

For Gooding, watching families grow and helping them before, during and after the delivery process is at the heart of her work.

“When moms come back for annuals, and that baby that we delivered last year is toddling around the exam room, then the next baby is on the way, that’s what I love,” Gooding said. “Taking care of women throughout their lives is a joy to me.”